Mediamatic Magazine vol. 5#4 Marijn van der Jagt 1 Jan 1991


A journey through the Space of Music

Rolling on the delirious surge of house music Marijn van der Jagt takes us via spiralling movements to the point where bodies and individual boundaries merge into an amorphous mass, the stroboscopic light blind us, flirtations and gazes no longer matter sound becomes colour, muscle dissolves into energy and her brain becomes a psychedelic gobo.


House -

At the beginning of the latest Batman film the images lead us for minutes on end through a landscape which we do not readily recognize. The camera zooms along curves, accelerates along straight stretches, grazes obstacles. It is as if the film was shot from a roller coaster. We are taken along this track for the whole length of the credits until all of a sudden the image zooms out in a flash and we are getting an overview. We then find that we have been inside the film's logo all the time, inside the word Batman. The camera moved along the outline of the letters, along the logo's blanks. We did have a hunch that the track wasfamiliar somehow but we could not read the letters. It hardly matters in this case. The reading, the overview, the meaning has become of secondary importance. What counts is the movement, the journey through the material, the space that opens up as soon as you concentrate on the pure material of the lettering.

That is house. A journey through the space of music. If hiphop was reading material, house is the ultimate music for movement. Hiphop samples are still easily picked out, here speaks an individual who has chosen a specific fragment of music and knows exactly what he wants to convey.

Listen to James Brown, our master, this is the best part of his best song. And my name is Rakim and Eric B. is on the cut. Hiphoppers will forever have to mention their own names to show us that they know what their composition is all about, that they know how to get their message across via their music. Hiphop is talker's music: the rapper gives his vision of life, puts the world around him into his music and so gives it meaning.

House is an inversion of hiphop. The gaze is no longer turned outward but inward. This music is not called ‘house’ for nothing; we stay at home (it is the cocoon variety of popmusic). We take the music that we have at home and make a housemix for a journey into the interior. As the computer freak locks himself in and leaves his living room via cyberspace, so we leave the house via the sound waves of music.

With hiphop you are outside the music looking in, just as you have to step back to be able to read the Batman logo lettering. The manipulation of the material is essential. Abrupt transitions from one fragment to another. Violations of voice and sound by scratching. In clips you always see the discjockeys hands manipulating the records. The needle is maltreated, the record is always checked. Hiphop is music of obstruction.

House is the exact opposite. Got to keep moving, keep moving. Sure, the music is built from existing fragments but they blend. It is less easy to make out the separate fragments since only the smallest elements are sampled and reproduced to form a monotonous layer of sound. The music consists of a number of alternating sound layers. You can hear them coming from afar, they linger in the foreground, then gradually disappear again. The music seems to generate itself, to grow organically almost without human intervention. The continuous shifts and alterations create a space for the mind to be in. You often think you recognize fragments, the music takes you along into your memory but as soon as you are on the verge of remembering you are swept on again, deeper into the music, by a different fragment. Just as we jumped into the Batman logo, we now jump on to the record and turn and turn. Sometimes we are checked, just to enhance the sensation of turning. Keep moving, keep moving. The manipulations have been subjected to the movement, the continuous rhythm that never stops. We let ourselves be turned and turned into a spiralling movement slowly gravitating toward the centre.

The spiral is a major house sign. It crops up everywhere: in lettering, afloat on an album sleeve, on posters advertising parties. In the Deee-lite clip the jockey himself is a spiral. The records he plays are black and white spirals, hut so too are his turntable, his clothes, everything is littered with spirals. The singers clothing and the clothing of the other members of the band are covered with colour patterns, which seem to move all the time like colours in a kaleidoscope. The musicians are reduced to visual effects, to patches of colour, lines and dots in an ever moving mass of colour.

In hiphop clips television noise was just a means to make abrupt transitions, to shake the viewers awake. In house clips noise is the foundation, it is quite pleasant to find yourself among the moving grains of the image. It is hardly necessary for the singers and musicians themselves to dance, they move along with the image.

They do not wish to express anything with their bodies, they only want the boundaries of their bodies to dissolve, to merge with the psychedelic gobo background of the clip.
Fashion moves in spirals. Trends disappear from view for a time only to come back again in a new outfit. An example is the trimmer. He had to disappear only to come back again as a jogger. The same idea, but adapted to a new age: new clothes, new material, the latest make in shoes. The old trimming clothes are definitely out. Not that their quality is poor, it is just a matter of style. And style may be determined by the minutest detail: an additional stripe, narrower trouser legs, shiny instead of dull material.

The spirals circles used to he so wide that by the time a new version of a trend came on the market it was hard to recall the old one. Nowadays things move faster. With house we have reached a vital point: the new has come about so quickly that it is hard to distinguish it from the old. What distinguishes the (modern) housefreak from a former hippie? They have the same long hair, the same scarf around the head, the same flower-patterned multi-coloured material. They might even have the same musty smell. The only difference is that the old hippie has been wearing his outfit for years, it has become part of his life. The housefreak has only recently bought his clothes and only puts them on in the evening.

At a houseparty these things no longer matter. The modern and the old-fashioned are the same, trendsetters and those lagging behind are one. This creates a freedom hitherto unknown.For lack of Peace & Freedom in the world outside we make a paradise tonight inside, where everything is possible, everything is allowed and everybody can be him or herself. It does not even matter how you dance. Formerly each trend had its own style of dancing. Discos were always divided between those who could and those who could not dance the new dance. Not many people really know how to breakdance or vogue. They are now at the centre of the dance floor, compared to them, others are reduced to a slow mass. But with house everyone is and belongs to the mass. There is not just one dance style only, everything is allowed as long as you are loose and feeling fine.The space to dance in has changed drastically from what it used to be in former discos. There is no longer a difference between the dance floor and its periphery.

Everything is now periphery, everything the centre. Nobody watches anybody. More often than not it is too dark to watch anybody anyway. Narcissism, mirrors, gazes, flirtations, they have all gone. Everybody dances for him or herself alone, tries to dissolve individual boundaries and lose the self in an amorphous mass. The stroboscopic light blinds you, the gaze no longer matters. Feel the music. Sound becomes colour, muscle dissolves into energy, my brain is a psychedelic gobo. I got something for your mind, your body and your soul. We find ourselves in the centre of a whirlpool, where all is one. Dust returns to dust and all molecules merge for as long as the night lasts. There are no more boundaries tonight. Tonight we let ourselves float in the primeval soup of our existence.

translation egggeads INC/Josephine vincent